The Perfect Insider Complete Collection (Cert 15)
2 Discs DVD/2 Discs Blu-ray Combo (Distributor: Animatsu Entertainment) Running time: 261 minutes approx.
Is there such a thing as the perfect murder? And if so, how does one commit it and get away with it? This has been the root of all mystery novels since time immemorial yet as we know there is always one Smart Alec who is able to figure it out in the end.
Souhei Saikawa, professor at the National Nagono University takes a study trip with some of his students to the remote Himakajima Islands at the behest of maths genius Moe Nishinosono, daughter of Saikawa’s mentor. There is an ulterior motive for Saikawa and Moe however – they wish to visit the special enclosed lab on Himaka Island where a reclusive programmer named Shiki Magata, has isolated herself from the world for fifteen years.
On the day Moe and Saikawa visit the hit-tech lab, there is a brief disruption in the power after which the limbless torso of Magata is eerily wheeled out of the room she was locked alone in for fifteen years on a mechanised trolley. As no-one had entry to the room and Magata never left the room, how could she have been murdered?
Based on the 1996 novel Subete ga F ni Naru (Everything Becomes F) by Hiroshi Mori, this is a mystery for the modern age which has been given an update by A1 Pictures, under the direction of Mamoru Kanbe (Elfen Lied) and screenwriter Toshiya Ono. Already a manga and a live TV series, this adaptation attempts to cover this complex affair in just eleven episodes.
Whilst this means the series doesn’t outstay its welcome it does pose the problem of rushing through the deduction process of what is a multi-layered scenario bringing with it a new twist or turn with each revelation. The story has been masterfully constructed and certainly lends itself to the animated medium very well with the episodic breakdown to steadily build tension but the presentation runs the risk of being off putting.
As if it was literally transposing the novel verbatim, this show is very talkative and quite often grounds to a halt as Saikawa and Moe go over the details of their latest findings. The first two episodes are almost throwaway fare with the story really beginning at the end of chapter two, having spent most of the time introducing the main cast and setting the scene before the murder takes place.
From here on after each episode closes with a flashback to the early life of Magata, as narrated by her uncle, a man she had a sexual relationship with since she was 13. These scenes provide a valuable insight into the brilliant but damaged psyche of Magata, as well as supplying hints to anything that might be of use in the current day investigation.
Moe claims to have interviewed Magata before via video conference, since Moe lost her parents in a plane crash while Magata is accused of murdering hers. The fact is Magata did kill her parents as revealed during a flashback, but her mental instability saw her avoid jail and instead she chose to be incarcerated in the lab her parents built, restricting her movements to one solitary room.
The entire complex is controlled by an AI named Deborah, which runs on a bespoke computer operating system called Red Magic devised by Magata. At the time of the murder a temporary glitch occurs which allows the perpetrator to escape unnoticed but Saikawa is far too smart to be fooled by this and with Moe’s help is able to begin to piece the puzzle together.
As if on cue the Red Magic system crashes and all contact to the outside world is obstructed, as well as restricted movement on the premises yet this does nothing to hinder Saikawa’s determination. A second murder occurs and further venturing into Magata’s life stoke the flames of curiosity, with each possible theory becoming more outlandish by the moment yet totally viable under these bizarre circumstances.
If you can imagine Poirot with computers, you have some idea of how deep a tangled web has been created here, except lacking a list of suspects to provide misdirection. However, there are plenty of distractions to slow the story down – Moe’s infatuation with Saikawa for one is a concurrent subplot that feels extraneous through its untimely application.
Magata is a fascinating creation and her life story is equal parts disturbing and tragic, with the flashback sequences she features in being a highlight of the series, proving more substantial action and development in two minutes than most episodes do in twenty. A lot of thought has gone into her backstory and it makes for interesting points for discussion when deducing the crime.
Since the final episode is essentially a coda, the conclusion is somewhat rushed and logic starts to trip over itself during the final sprint to the finish line. As we might come to expect from the Japanese, the philosophical tenets that drive the motivations of the cast are oblique to western minds, making Magata either a mystically complex figure or just plain psychotic.
Production values are commendable with the artwork detailed yet modest, realistically presenting the lab as a sterile and austere environment. The character designs are nicely understated and less beholden to the anime templates of huge eyes and wild hairstyles, while the creative muscles were flexed during a hallucinogenic sequence during Moe’s stint inside a sensory deprivation chamber.
Out of the eleven episodes here only eight really hold any significant content, with the finale basically just wrapping things up, tying a few lose ends together. Upon reflection, this could have been a much tighter script with flashbacks or visual illustrations of theories supplanting most of the garrulous discussion between Saikawa and Moe to make them less ponderous.
The Perfect Insider may take a while but it will certainly hook you with its sinuous developments and tantalising revealing of vital clues that will have you playing detective too!
Japanese Language w/ English Subtitles
Disc 1 Only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – *** ½
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